Three Running Backs to Buy, Sell, or Hold in Devy Leagues

Nicholas Muzzillo

By popular demand, we’re back with another buy, sell or hold – devy style! Last week, we introduced this new series looking at some college quarterbacks to consider for each move, and now we shift our focus to the ball carriers.

Times have certainly changed, though, for running backs in fantasy football, haven’t they? I can still remember when it was all about having volume backs. They gave you such an edge compared to your league mates. You wanted at least one, but if you landed two, you were a true contender to win it all.

However, in today’s game though, that has flipped on its head. With the NFL being such a passing league, wide receivers and quarterbacks are at a premium. The running back position has become more of a filler spot for most teams that will try to find value between the margins (the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs are a good example – coincidentally, this year’s two Super Bowl participants).

But, fear not! The position itself seems to be on the come up, as there is a bevy of developing talent, at both the high school and college level. So, with that being said, let’s take a look at some of the running backs you should consider to buy, sell, or hold.

Buy: Trevor Etienne and Montrell Johnson Jr, Florida

First, let me answer that question. Yes – Trevor is Travis Etienne‘s little brother – and he makes for an intriguing buy candidate in devy leagues. I also included his running mate, Montrell Johnson Jr, because both he and Etienne have interesting traits/profiles. Johnson actually led the Gators in rushing with 841 yards and 10 touchdowns, but this was a near 55/45 split between the two.

Looking over the Gators’ roster, they are rather young and inexperienced on the outside, leaving the offense to have to run through their impressive running back duo. The Gators added a veteran quarterback in Graham Mertz via the transfer portal, who transfers into Gainesville from Wisconsin.

Mertz started the last three years for the Badgers, and will bring experience to the quarterback position – which may allow both to develop even more as featured backs. Johnson will be draft eligible in 2023, while Etienne will be a true sophomore in 2023, making him first draft eligible in 2025.

I’d consider buying if you’re looking to add some cheap youth with intriguing upside if you’re looking to sell off a veteran running back, and/or are in a complete teardown phase. Two names that come to mind that I’d consider flipping for: James Conner and Miles Sanders.

Sell: Devin Neal, Kansas

The disparity between where he’s currently ranked in our devy rankings (RB13) compared to his actual tape/production feels too rich for me. Neal has a smaller frame, but is a quick, elusive zone running back who has a good burst to the second level. He also has the wiggle to shake defenders in the open field, but he is easy to wrap up once he’s chased down. He was prone to losing yardage in the backfield, and lacked contact balance, quick-twitch, and instincts on power run schemes to avoid negative plays that were blown up behind the line of scrimmage.

Because of this, and because I expect Kansas to have another mediocre season, I think it could be in your favor to move away from Neal now.

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Courtesy of DLF Devy RB rankings.

I would rather have any of those other running backs who are currently ranked behind him, specifically Rueben Owens, Trey Benson, Jaydn Ott, Miyan Williams, and Jase McClellan.

I’d feel good about moving Neal for a good backup runner who may be an injury away from a good situation, or a veteran who still has at least one to two years of solid production left.

Hold: Jase McClellan, Alabama

Speaking of McClellan, he is our hold candidate for this edition of devy running backs. I think the arrow can only go up for McClellan this year. With Jahmyr Gibbs now off to the NFL, McClellan will get his chance to shine for the Crimson Tide as their lead tailback.

Alabama returns three starters on the offensive line and added the number one offensive tackle recruit from Iowa in Kaden Proctor, who will have every opportunity to win the left tackle job this summer. It won’t come easy for McClellan though, as he will have to compete with former five-star prospect Justice Haynes, who can also be found as our devy RB17.

Despite Gibbs getting most of the work last season, McClellan flashed some big-time, game-changing plays and also tied Gibbs in total touchdowns with ten. The talent and situation lends itself to at least seeing how this thing shakes out.

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Courtesy of Sports Reference.

Hold for now, but have a quick trigger due to an injury, or if it’s clear Haynes is flat-out better.

nicholas muzzillo
Three Running Backs to Buy, Sell, or Hold in Devy Leagues